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The Thriller Genre

What is a Thriller?

The thriller is thus named because it provides the reader with thrills. Typically, however, the reader uses the thriller title to discuss a book that has significant danger to the hero, an engaging and powerful villain in the piece, and high stakes to the city, country, or world if the villain succeeds. The exact classification is a little fuzzy so books are sometimes defined as thrillers which may not fit this definition.

Thrillers are often lumped in with Suspense books, but if you want to break things down exactly, is a different genre. Both Thrillers, Suspense, and Mystery books often include elements each other, which is why they are often all tossed together under a single unified category of "Mystery/Thriller/Suspense' books.

Thriller Characteristics

  • Level of Characterization

    The characters can be given a back story, or they may just serve as a way to move the plot along..

  • Level of Plot

    The plot is one of the main drivers in the thriller, The characters must be a quest to help others by their actions.

  • Level of Mystery

    There may be a mystery involved, but it's not a requirement of the subgenre.

  • Level of Suspense

    Most definitely. A thriller need to have suspense, the feeling that something bad is going to happen. It helps activate the characters to solve the problem and save the world.

  • Level of Thriller

    It goes without saying.

  • Level of Strangeness

    There can definitely be strange elements in a thriller. New weapons, different technologies, anything that may threaten the world. And the villain should be larger than life.

  • Level of Violence

    Violence in a part of any thriller. The violence must be sufficient to make the stakes high for the hero and the people involved.

  • Level of Action

    It wouldn't be a thriller without action. Most thrillers have higher page counts, which in turn means more events must occur to keep things moving swiftly.

  • Degree of Thriller, Thriller, Crime, or Mystery in the Thriller Subgenre

    Obviously, these fall into the category of thriller most of all. Thriller need suspense to keep the reader turning those pages. The stakes must be high and the results of failing must be intolerable. While there may be mystery elements, as perhaps the main characters don't know who they are fighting against, a mystery is not required for a thriller.

Related MYSTERY Subgenres



  • Suspense.

Thriller isn't for you IF...

like shorter novels, you don't want to be turning the pages at 3am.

Popular Thriller Books